A young South Korean construction worker has become an international singing star after more than 10 million YouTube users watched his powerful performance on a local TV talent show.
Nobody expected such a deep and strong baritone to emerge from a nervous 21-year-old Choi Sung-Bong when he first appeared dressed in jeans and trainers on “Korea’s Got Talent” in early June.
After telling the audience that he doesn’t sing well, Choi performed a sensational “Nella Fantasia” that reduced the audience and the judges to tears.
The success of the boyish looking Choi who has been compared by some to Britain’s Susan Boyle, is all the more remarkable given his tough early life.
“I was left in an orphanage when I was three…I ran away when I was five due to abuse,” he told judges at his initial appearance on the talent show.
Choi who has since made three appearances on air is also said to have supported himself selling chewing gum or energy drinks on the street and slept on stairways or in public bathrooms for about 10 years.
After skipping elementary and middle school, he entered an arts high school at the age of 16 and graduated in 2009.
Choi had to work during his high school years given his lack of financial support, said a spokeswoman for CJ E&M, the channel that airs the talent show.
The singing sensation said his desire to perform was kindled when he watched a night club vocalist.
“I was fascinated by the singer who sang on stage so sincerely.”
“Music itself is the reason for me to live… I’m thankful that now I have the reason,” Choi said.
After the video clip telling his story and featuring his performance was aired, a Facebook fan page was set up and the YouTube video page was flooded with encouragement.
Canadian singer Justin Bieber who made it big through YouTube posted Choi’s clip on his Facebook page and noted “This is awesome. Never say never and good luck to this kid.”
The new singing sensation will learn after the competition’s finals on August 20 whether his dreams will come true.